New Ofcom guidelines which give broadcasters more flexibility in their election coverage could mean less airtime for UKIP, it has emerged.
Under new rules set out by the watchdog, broadcasters can base their editorial decisions around evidence of past and/or current electoral support.
Ofcom has removed the concept of ‘larger’ parties from its rules for party political broadcasts, which previously required media outlets to allocate at least two party election broadcasts to the main parties.
This could mean UKIP - which won more than 12% of the vote at the 2015 general election but has seen its support collapse in local elections overnight - will get less time on the airwaves.
TV insiders said the changes would make it easier to give less time to leader Paul Nuttall and other spokespeople - but the changes are unlikely to affect former leader Nigel Farage, who is a more frequent presence on our screens.
Peter Lowe, Sky News’ managing editor, told HuffPostUK: “We will be doing a full analysis of the local election results in the coming days.
“It will be one of the factors that will be in play when we are weighing up things under the new rules, but is obviously only part of the story.”
He added that Sky will also take into account the results of the 2015 election.
Ofcom said it would also publish a digest of past and current electoral support for broadcasters to use as a guide.
A spokesman added: “Previously, ahead of an election, relevant broadcasters have been required to allocate at least two party election broadcasts to each party on the ‘larger parties’ list.
The decision to remove the list confirms proposals in Ofcom’s November 2016 consultation. Instead, broadcasters must base editorial decisions about election coverage, and decisions on the allocation of party political broadcasts, on evidence of past electoral support and/or current support.”
Analysis of local results so far shows UKIP are down 41 councils seats and have won just one.
The party has been wiped out in Lincolnshire, losing all of its 13 seats, as well as nine in Essex.
Ex-leadership contender Lisa Duffy said the results were “disappointing” but she would “not call it a disaster” - despite UKIP being set to lose all of its MEPs and not having a single MP.
Deputy Chair Suzanne Evans insisted the party isn’t finished telling ITV News: “I think even if we don’t win a single council seat in this election, and of course not all the votes have been counted yet, we’ll still have 300 councillors across the country and eight Assembly Members is Wales and in London.
“So no we’re not finished. I think we expected this. We have achieved our reason for being, we are headed out of the European Union.
“People have seen us as a single issue party, that’s not true, but that’s how people have seen us. So I think there is a sense out there that our job is done but it absolutely isn’t.”
By contrast, the Greens have so far picked up five seats.
Co-leader Jonathan Bartley said: “These new guidelines empower broadcasters to recognise the growing support for the Green Party.
“With representation in both houses of Parliament, the London Assembly, the European Parliament and the Scottish Parliament we look forward to these changes giving Greens a fair share of airtime.”